In 1956, some of my ride-around buddies in Calhoun City, Mississippi, drove all the way to Houston, 18 miles, and bought a 78 rpm recording of Fats Domino doing “Ain’t That A Shame.”
The disk cost 98 cents plus tax and teens in that day often had a hard time coming up with that, much less investing it in a record.
But Fats’ nasal twang and the churning piano and surging dance beat of that recording had been coming at us hard through the radio. So had this explosion of rhythm and blues that blew away the staid old pop music market — Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, the Drifters, Clovers and Dells, Etta James, Laverne Baker, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Platters, the Midnighters, the Spiders, Smiley Lewis.
It was an onslaught of music that had passion and a beat. No longer would we wonder if Perry Como was actually going to fall asleep, or if Patti Page or Joni James were going to drown in warm maple syrup.
We kids just rode around in country towns. There were no chain restaurants, no malls, no television sets or computers. If someone in town did have a TV, they could tune in to such shows as Howdy Doody, Sky King, and slapstick comics like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Red Skelton. No interest there.
We would crowd ourselves into cars, drive over to Houston and back, up to Bruce and back and even down to Grenada and back. Bootleggers ringed the town but were reluctant to sell to us. Notorious, beer-laced Carroll County beckoned on dirt roads just south of Grenada.
But a trip to the record store was a simple thing. We just wondered what was on the ‘B’ side of this hit, and awaited the afternoon return of Donna Jean, Wanda Kay, Nancy Ann, Raymona, James Lawrence, Don, Linda Nell, or whomever combination of buddies went on the mini-trek.
Alas, the news came later that upon returning Donna and her voluminous hoop skirt (remember those) had accidentally sat upon the fragile 78 and broke it in half. We all wailed, laughed and kept up our radio listening.
We had the nights with WLAC in Nashville, with deejay Gene Nobles until midnight and then Hoss Man took over. He sounded like the Big Bopper would later, and Wolfman Jack, and kinda like Foghorn Leghorn too.
Nobles acknowledged he was broadcasting to ‘all the little fillies and old nags’ out there and insisted on calling do-wop groups ’droopy drawers’ songs. He always had a package of 7 records he sold from Randy’s Record Mart at a discount and played samples.
I believe several songs were banned from radio play, like the Midnighters doing ‘Work With Me, Annie” and ‘Annie Had A Baby,’ the Spiders doing ‘The Real Thing (that made my ding-a-ling ring)’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-A-Ling.’
If those people or yesteryear could hear some Gangsta Rap today, their heads would explode.
At any rate, this aborted purchase of music led my life into many more adventures into the wide world of Music, with thousands of purchases, large collections in various media forms and a long list of musical performers with parts in my history of musical experience.
This long path to senior citizenry has not been a straight line and has taken many twists and turns as new discoveries and new genres are revealed. This is a just a personal list of all those I want to thank and sort of in the order in which they were discovered, starting in 1956, but then during the listing, a random house of titles comes through from all ages that you missed.
I have found little in mainstream country music to appreciate but you are all welcome to it. Over the years, I lost interest in pop idols and all of their customary song hooks. But I didn’t immerse myself in jazz either. I just took my path of interest wherever it has led, as you have, and this wide array of personalities were there with me.
Fats Domino; Ray Charles; Little Richard; the Platters; Bo Diddley; Chuck Berry; Etta James; Jimmy Reed; Elvis Presley; Johnny Cash; Jerry Lee Lewis; Laverne Baker; Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters; the Cadillacs, Howling Wolf; Mickey & Sylvia, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, BB King, Lightning Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, John Lee Hooker; Robert Johnson, Smiley Lewis; Ivory Joe Hunter; Chuck Willis; the Dells, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Moonglows; Josh White, Hoyt Axton, Roger Miller, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Uncle Dave Macon, Peter, Paul and Mary, Hank Williams, the Kingston Trio; Carlos Montoya, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Joan Baez; Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Judy Collins; Glenn Yarbrough; Ian and Sylvia, Nina Simone; Percy Sledge, James Brown, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Della Reese, Brook Benton; Mose Allison, Roy Hamilton; the Righteous Brothers; the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Mathis, the Coasters, Nat King Cole, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, Rickie Lee Jones, Arlo Guthrie, Steppenwolf, Harry Belafonte, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jethro Tull, Bob Dylan, the Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, the Mamas and the Papas, the Righteous Brothers, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, Traffic, Steve Winwood, Pink Floyd, Z Z Top, Dolly Parton, Iris Dement, John Prine, the Neville Brothers, the Everly Brothers, Al Hirt, Cat Stevens, Michael Hedges, Bruce Becvar, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Donovan, Enya, Van Morrison, Carol King, James Taylor, Joe Cocker, Paul Winter Consort, Santana, the Moody Blues, Otis Redding, the Mark Almond Band, Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Winter, Carlos Montoya, Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, the Band, Emmylou Harris, Janis Ian, Kris Kristofferson, Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Indigo Girls, Heart, Janis Joplin, John Denver, Bruce Hornsby, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Jesse Colin Young, Jonathan Edwards, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Stephen Stills; Neil Young, Leon Russell, Cyndi Lauper, John Mellencamp, David & David, Hothouse Flowers, Sarah Brightman, Richie Havens, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, Robert Plant, Allison Krauss & Union Station, the Eagles, Roseanne Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Al Stewart, Mose Allison, Nanci Griffith, Alanis Morrisette, Johnny Clegg & Savuka; Counting Crows, Ry Cooder, Eric Johnson, Jackson C. Frank, Joe Ely, Yanni, Andres Vollenweider, Tangerine Dream, Andre Bocelli, Joan Armatrading, Jose Feliciano, Ali Farke Toure and Vieux Farke Toure, Don McLean, the David Bromberg Band, Roseanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, the Chieftains, the Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra, Robert Cray, Bob Marley, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, the Allman Brothers Band, Natalie Merchant, the Cranberries, Kathy Mattea, the Dixie Chicks, the Who, Tina Turner, Elton John, Lucinda Williams, Nick Drake, Tim & Jeff Buckley, Heart, Melissa Ethredge, the Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Country Joe & the Fish, Angela Bofill, Bruno Mars, Jennifer Warnes, Jesse Winchester, Steve Forbert, Steely Dan, Sheryl Crow, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Super Tramp, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, Taj Mahal, R.E.M., Willie Nelson, Sonny Boy Williamson 1 & 2, Phil Collins, Sting, Bill Haley & the Comets, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Louis Prima, the Lumineers, Eric Clapton, Chicago, the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Little Feat, Pete Seeger, the Black Crowes, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dobet Gnanore, Manou Gallo, Sona Jobarteh, and Yes!
And yet in our lifetimes we can only sample a little of the music available on the planet, and there isn’t enough time to explore the various genres and fusions of genres to find the gems we like. There are various genres I haven’t fully explored but I’ve sampled a lot of them. There are superstars I haven’t heard and esoteric performers I’m glad I didn’t miss.
We each have our musical quests, and hopefully we will find music we enjoy for all our lives.
AIN’T THAT A SHAME? NO.
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